April 18, 2008

Spring review: Wide receivers

BamaOnLine.com reviews Alabama's spring football practice position by position this week, continuing Friday with the wide receivers and tight ends.

Leading WR candidates
NameYearSize2006 season
Mike McCoyJr.6-3. 20028 rec., 207 yds., tops among all returners
Nikita StoverSr.6-0, 20710 rec., 131 yds, 2 TDs
Will OakleySr.6-1, 1961 rec., 16 yds.
Earl AlexanderSoph.6-5, 2164 rec., 40 yds., all in season-opener
Darius HanksRFr.6-0, 1901 rec., 6 yds. vs. WCU; then redshirted
Brandon GibsonRFr.6-1, 192Redshirted
Marquis MazeRFr.5-9, 167Redshirted
Chris JacksonFr.6-1, 190Early enrollee/at McDonough (Ga.) Henry Co. HS last year
Tarence FarmerRFr.6-0, 195Redshirted at safety; moved to WR in spring

Good to see: The full-health return of Grant was a welcome sight for a coaching staff that clearly felt he was the team's best option at the beginning of last season. While Grant's predecessor at the position, Ken Darby, missed an entire spring with the same ailment (sports hernia), Grant's recovery was obviously a much smoother climb than Darby's. The burst he showed on a 75-yard touchdown catch on A-Day was missing from his arsenal late last season.

Although Coffee was designated non-contact for the entirety of spring drills, he was able to participate in individual drills at full speed and looked sharp. If any of UA's rushers could afford to miss a spring, Coffee is the one. As UA's most complete back, it won't take him long to re-establish his role in fall camp.

Need to see more of: It's uncertain what Upchurch and Goode might provide this fall, but for very different reasons. Goode got his first taste of contact following a rehab from knee ligaments torn last fall. Whether the obstacle is mental or physical, he appeared to favor the knee at times during the spring and was even run down from behind by 300-plus pounder Alfred McCullough on an A-Day play. Still, torn knee ligaments have been known to shelve a player longer than the eight months it took Goode to return, so it can't be said that he is behind schedule. More than likely, Goode just needs more time.

Upchurch led UA in rushing in each of the last two scrimmages, but Nick Saban noted off-field issues with the junior from Tallahassee, Fla., following an 80-yard performance on April 5. This is the same player who was left in a reserve role last year when Alabama's running back situation became so dire that Jonathan Lowe was pressed into duty. Upchurch is as naturally gifted as any back UA has with ball in hand, but his role isn't likely to expand until he clears a hurdle or two with the coaching staff. As for Griffin, his size adds yet another dimension to UA's backfield. With the fullback position taking a backseat to UA's depth at tight end, however, Griffin has far more competition as a ball carrier.

Overall: The Crimson Tide has a nice complement of backs with differing styles, though that is also a charitable way of saying none of them has the look of a top-flight, 25-carry SEC horse. If Upchurch doesn't make a major push in fall camp, the rotation against Clemson will probably look much like it did early last season.

2008 Signees
Mark Ingram5-10, 195Flint (Mich.) Southwestern Academy
Chris Jordan6-2, 200Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy
Jermaine Preyear5-11, 205Mobile (Ala.) Davidson
Ivan Matchett5-10, 206Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's

What's in store: While experience is invaluable at every position at the college level, it's less so at running back than most other positions. The potential for true freshman contribution at running back is there, but it will require more than just playmaking skills. Without grasp of scheme and blocking assignments to go with it, incomers need not apply. With a four-star recruitment that went to the wire and NFL bloodlines in his family, the pre-camp hype award will go to Ingram. But if all redshirt, it could be another year before there is any real indication of separation among the running back signees.

Also see BOL spring reviews on...


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